Margaret Stringer's Testimoney
Margaret's Testimony!God saved me when I was 11 years old and I dedicated my life to becoming a missionary, by the age of 12. I had never seen a missionary, as our church didn't have those odd creatures visit, and am sure that nobody really expected that I really would do it, but they had not taken God into account.
I used to cry myself to sleep in high school begging God to let me become a missionary. I wanted to go to the most primitive people in the world – only I didn't know just where that was.
After graduating from high school, I went to Tennessee Temple University where I learned a lot about missions and met scads of missionaries from all sorts of ministries and from many different places. I never heard a dull missionary speaker and I wanted to return to their fields with all of them.
While waiting for God to show me “my place” I went home for vacation where I heard a missionary from my church speak about a place way off in what was then Dutch New Guinea. He showed slides from a village named Senggo of little black boys wearing bright red shorts, which had been made by the missionary's wife. The people were very primitive – in the Stone Age culture – and still practicing headhunting and cannibalism.
When I saw his slides it seemed as if God said, “That is going to be your place.”
In July, 1964 I went to “my place” which at that time had become a part of Indonesia and was Irian Barat, Indonesia – now Irian Jaya or West Papua, Indonesia. After about 10 years in the Mimika tribe, the Mission moved me to the village of Senggo in the Citak tribe. There I met the very ones who had worn the little red shorts and some of them became my language helpers and the first church leaders.
During my 40 years and 3 months there I never once doubted that I was there in God's will. God is so good to let us forget the difficult times and remember the good ones. I look back on my time there and wish I had been a better missionary, but would do it again in a minute.
We talk a lot about “surrendering to do God's will”. I believe that we should be standing in line hoping and praying that God will choose for us to do something special for Him. He chooses us not because we are someone special, but because of His grace and mercy. When He chooses for us to so something for Him we have been highly honored and should thank Him every day for that privilege.
He gave me the almost unbelievable privilege of working in the Citak tribe on the southern coast of Irian Jaya where I had the joy of reducing the unwritten language to writing and translating the New Testament into two languages – Citak and Tamnim.
I got to be the first white person to go into an area where the people were still practicing headhunting and cannibalism. And just before coming home in October, I got to participate their first church dedication in one of those villages. I got to hear Boar, the village chief and former headhunter, say, “Thank you for coming. Thank you for telling us how to go to Heaven. You brought us out of the darkness into the light.”
In future articles, I will share some of those great and awesome experiences of being God's unworthy ambassador in Irian Jaya.
Language and Culture
I arrived in what was then West Irian, Indonesia in July, 1964 all gung ho, 24 years old and ready to win the world and about as excited as anyone could be about finally becoming one of those weird and wonderful creatures – a missionary.
My first house was an all-metal building that had not been lived in for several years, nor had it been repaired or cleaned. The result was torn screens all around, and LOTS of large jungle rats. I caught 7 in one night and loved every minute of it. I was a missionary, and missionaries have rats! The smell was a different story. Nothing would take away the rat smell except to scrub and paint over it. I also had scads of spiders and those lovely small lizards, which inhabit all the houses. Fortunately they “usually” stay pretty much out of your way – on the ceiling, etc. – and only once in a while fall off, causing lots of excitement if they fall on your head or table! Once you get use to their droppings all over the house, it isn't so bad. On the plus side, they eat mosquitoes.
Life was great until I went out to interact with those wonderful people whom I had come to win. I couldn't understand a word they said, and of course, I couldn't say a word in Indonesian. I felt like they were making fun of my ignorance. Later, I learned that I was correct! That causes one to develop real paranoia and a fear of opening one's mouth. One lady – who remained my good friend the entire 40+ years I was there – decided to take it on herself to show extraordinary patience and began to help me learn the Indonesian language.
The Irianese people are so very patient with us. Once I was talking with the village chief – “kepala” – and called him “kelapa” – coconut. That was just one of many embarrassing moments while learning to communicate in the Indonesian language. I just never could remember the difference in “ rambut” ‘hair', and “ rumput” ‘grass'. On more than one occasion I got strange looks from the kids when I told them to “get the machete and go out and cut the “ rambut” in the yard”.
Indonesian culture learning was also challenging. It is very rude to use your left hand. I am left-handed. When you walk in front of someone, you much bend over from the waist, put your right hand out in front of you, and walk in front of them feeling like a first class idiot. Finally, that became so normal and now I find it difficult to walk in the upright position in front of someone in the U.S.
Just when I was beginning to feel comfortable in the Indonesian language and culture I had to start all over in another language – Mimika – and finally in the Citak language.
Loving the people we minister to as missionaries is an absolute necessity, and the key to loving them is to get a good understanding of their culture, their view of the world, how they think about things and why.
I worked for 30 years in the Citak tribe in the rainforest on the south coast of Irian Jaya . Their language was not written so in order to learn it, I had to make an alphabet, write it down, figure out the grammar, and make a dictionary.
My memoir "From Hollywood to God" is now on Amazon and Kindle books!